Arabs, invest in one of your favorite pastimes

Films tell stories, making them one of the most powerful mediums to reach the masses and the Arab world is no stranger to the industry.

From the Egyptian cinema industry that has been growing for decades, to cinemas now being one of the youth’s favorite weekend pastimes, the region seems to love films. But what has erupted over the past few years is a wave of mixed-language films that tell non-Arabic speakers our stories. These films aren’t written as comedies, they’re written as human interest narratives.

Communicating causes

There are plenty of rising Arab writers, producers, and directors out there. There are also plenty of rising Arab actors and actresses who long for the opportunity to tell the stories of their lands.

Being an artist in the region is difficult; it’s difficult to organize shows and viewings in a region torn by turmoil and divided by checkpoints.

Yara al-Wazir

The Palestinian cause is not shy to foreign films – from Oscar-nominated flicks such as “5 Broken Cameras” and “Ajami,” to more low-key films such as “Miral” and “Salt of this Sea,” the Palestinian cause has been amplified by the industry.

The reason this has been so successful is that the shapers of the industry realize the need to communicate to people who don’t always sit in the choir – Arabs know the stories behind the millions of Palestinians in refugee camps, they’ve heard them before. Others haven’t. It’s the realization that we must communicate to those who are outside our region that makes these films so successful.

More importantly, it’s the human stories behind them. “Ajami” tells a tale of love and drugs torn between Palestine and Israel. It realizes that audiences don’t go to the cinema to watch the news; they go to watch stories to which they can relate.

An expensive hobby, but we can help

The general consensus is that those who are comfortable enough to claim filmmaking to be their profession are ones who can afford it. After all, it’s quite an expensive hobby to have.

Being an artist in the region is difficult; it’s difficult to have the public take you seriously, it’s difficult to find funding, and it’s difficult to organize shows and viewings in a region torn by turmoil and divided by checkpoints. But it must be done. Building skyscrapers and hosting sporting events and expos puts our names on the map for a few years, but films are timeless, which why we need to invest more in them.

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival, a subsidiary of twofour54, and the Doha Film Institute (DFI) organize festivals annually. While they do sponsor local artists and films, we mustn’t rely solely on them. We need more organizations like DFI and twofour54 to support artists and give them a platform to showcase their work.

However, the responsibility to support this art also falls on us, whether we rely on crowd funding campaigns, such as the one run by the film “Speed Sisters,” -organizing an independent screening of the film - or simply by not illegally pirating the films. We are all responsible for the success of this industry, and so long as we continue to make authentic films, we can limit the negative portrayal of Arabs in the media industry.

Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir


Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:44 - GMT 06:44
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.